W. C. Sawyer

Many early residents of Newport Harbor remember W. C. (Bill) Sawyer as an eccentric, rather portly gentleman who always dressed in black, from his felt, snap-brimmed hat to his black high top shoes. He proudly wore his Phi Beta Kappa key on a gold watch chain. He was often to be seen on top of the Newport Pavilion, or on the Yacht Club roof, with his view camera on its tripod and with his head under the dark cloth, as he photographed one of the many memorable images he left of early Newport Harbor.

Little is known of Sawyers's early days, other than he was an engineering graduate of an eastern school. In 1909, he was listed as being allied with a cement machinery and building business in Los Angeles. He became a City Engineer for the City of Los Angeles in 1914 and appears to have continued in that capacity until 1935, after which his occupation was listed as photographer. He lived the latter part of his life in Echo Park in Los Angeles and there had his studio and his photographic collection. He did all of his own darkroom work and visitors to his studio remember that prints, negatives and papers were stacked anywhere and everywhere, yet Sawyer seemed always to be able to put his hand on what was wanted.

Mr. Sawyer had been hurt in a mining accident at one time and received a head injury, after which time his mind seemed to wander a bit and he exhibited rather vague behavior. Bud Landers, a friend, found him our walking one day and invited him in for food and drink; after that they established a bond when they found they had both been Sigma Nu fraternity members at college.

Me. Sawyer spent nearly every weekend in Newport or at waterfront scenes in Los Angeles.

He took the "Red Car" to Balboa and would spend the day recording marine events. His pictures of Newport Harbor, Los Angeles and California Yacht Club events have left us an incomparable record of the period up to the 1950s. He had a real gift for photographing sailboats and showing them from their best aspect.